[Marxism] Bellingcat: ‘Third Man’ in Skripal Attack Was Link to Moscow,

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Jul 1 09:55:02 MDT 2019

NY Times, July 1, 2019
‘Third Man’ in Skripal Attack Was Link to Moscow, Investigative Group Says
By Ellen Barry

A senior Russian military intelligence officer coordinated the 
nerve-agent attack on Sergei V. Skripal, a former spy, from a hotel in 
the heart of London, making repeated phone calls to an unregistered, 
prepaid Russian number, the investigative group Bellingcat says.

The report sheds more light on a third figure in an attack that threw 
British and Russian relations into a tailspin — each expelled diplomats 
from the other country — and led to the fatal poisoning of a British 
woman after the discarded Novichok nerve agent was found in a perfume 
bottle in the trash.

Bellingcat said it had traced phone calls made by the officer, who was 
identified as Denis Sergeyev but who traveled under the name Sergei 
Fedotov. It obtained his metadata from an employee of a Russian mobile 
operator, who says that the leak did not breach privacy laws because 
Sergei Fedotov, the individual to whom the number is registered, does 
not exist.

Moscow has long denied any involvement in the attack on Mr. Skripal, who 
was living in the English city of Salisbury after being released from a 
Russian prison in a spy swap. He and his daughter, Yulia Skripal, 
survived the poisoning attempt, and now remain in an undisclosed location.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia insisted in an interview published 
on Friday by The Financial Times that Russia had not tried to poison Mr. 
Skripal, arguing that he had already served a sentence in a Russian 
prison for assisting British intelligence. He did, however, speak with 
open contempt for traitors in general.

“Treason is the gravest crime possible, and traitors must be punished,” 
he said, adding, “I am not saying that the Salisbury incident is the way 
to do it. Not at all. But traitors must be punished.”

British officials identified Mr. Skripal’s attackers as colonels in 
Russia’s military intelligence service, the G.R.U., who were caught 
numerous times on video surveillance footage near Mr. Skripal’s home, 
where traces of the nerve agent was found and which sickened a local 
police officer.

Bellingcat later revealed their true names as Anatoly V. Chepiga and 
Aleksandr E. Mishkin. But until now, few details about the “third man” 
believed to accompanied the team to London have been reported.

The group’s findings suggest that the mission was put together hurriedly.

Mr. Sergeyev, it said, received confirmation that he would have to fly 
to London at 6 p.m. on March 1, just three days before the poisoning, 
and then called travel agencies, searching for last-minute flights from 
Moscow to London. He received a booking confirmation just after 8 p.m., 
Bellingcat reports, and then searched to see whether he would need a new 
data plan.

He arrived at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow at 6 a.m. the following 
day, and while he waited for his flight to depart — it was delayed by 
two hours — he downloaded several large data files and sent messages 
over the messaging applications Telegram, WhatsApp, Viber and Facebook 
Messenger. Before the flight left, he spoke twice to a Russian phone 
number belonging to a prepaid SIM card with no registered owner.

During the next three days, he would speak 11 times to someone over the 
unregistered Russian number, and no one else, Bellingcat reported.

Arriving in London, he checked into a hotel near Paddington Station and 
spent the next two days there, communicating via encrypted messaging 
apps and using 3G and 4G connections, Bellingcat said. He left only 
once, on March 3, during which, phone records reveal, he was near the 
Thames embankment — a short walk from the railway station where Mr. 
Skripal’s two attackers, Mr. Chepiga and Mr. Mishkin, would leave about 
50 minutes later.

On the day of the poisoning, Mr. Sergeyev received a call from the 
unregistered Russian number around 9 a.m., and then sent a large data 
file — possibly a photo — an hour later, just as Mr. Chepiga and Mr. 
Mishkin headed to Salisbury. He then began his journey home to Moscow.

Bellingcat noted that Mr. Sergeyev’s phone signals in Moscow typically 
showed him leaving his home for one of two G.R.U. campuses, its 
headquarters and its training academy.

The patterns of use during the Skripal operation, it said, also suggest 
a methodology used in such operations, in which a senior coordinating 
officer communicates with Moscow, while agents on the ground — in this 
case, Mr. Chepiga and Mr. Mishkin — receive no instructions.

More information about the Marxism mailing list